The American rock band R.E.M. was formed in 1980 in Athens, Ga. by four students who attended the University of Georgia. The four (Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe), played their first-ever gig at a birthday party held in a former church, and encouraged by the reception, soon dropped out of school to focus on music. Setting out in an old blue van (driven by manager Jefferson Holt), the band crisscrossed the South for over a year, playing for whomever and wherever they found a willing audience. Their first single, "Radio Free Europe", became an instant hit despite being on a smaller independent label. Their reputation spread quickly, and they gained their first national exposure when the New York Times named "Radio Free Europe" one of the year's (1981) best singles. They recorded an EP, "Chronic Town" in 1982, and following rave reviews, became favorites among the college and underground communities. This was followed by their first album, "Murmur", named by Rolling Stone as Record of the Year. "Reckoning" and "Fables of the Reconstruction" came next, and although reviews were laudatory, commercial success eluded the band, for the time being. That changed with 1986's "Life’s Rich Pageant," which earned gold status. Arguably, R.E.M.'s commercial and creative peak occurred between 1987-1991 when their albums "Document", "Green", "Out of Time" and "Automatic for the People" were all chart-toppers, and they had several similarly-performing singles, as well. The band's touring success reflected their commercial acceptance, selling out arenas worldwide. In the ensuing two decades, the band toured only sporadically, focusing more on their studio projects which included the albums "Monster", "New Adventures in Hi-Fi", "Up", "Reveal", "Around the Sun", "Accelerate", "Collapse Into Now", and a pair of live albums. In September 2011, the band announced they were breaking up after some 30 years. R.E.M.'s influence remains strong, with such bands as Nirvana, Sonic Youth and Pavement stating the band as being major influences in both their style and approach.